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A sweet way to improve writing skills is with a single Hershey’s Kiss!
Have your students take out a sheet of paper and writing instrument, close their eyes, and pretend they’re meeting someone from outer space. They’ll soon have to describe an object from Earth, but they’ll have to explain this object using words that the alien would understand. The words will have to be vivid, descriptive, succinct, perhaps dramatic, but definitely explanatory. While they’re envisioning this scenario, you are passing out one Hershey’s Kiss per student and reminding them that they should keep their eyes closed until further instruction.
Once you’ve passed out a Kiss to each student, tell them that there’s an object in front of them and that they’ll have to write one sentence about seeing this object. The hitch is that they can’t use the words chocolate, Hershey’s, or Kiss – they’ll have to describe this object based only on appearance. They’re not allowed to touch it, just write a descriptive sentence using the sense of sight without using those words.
Next, have the students pick up the object. They should then write a sentence about the object based on their sense of touch, of course without using the words chocolate, Hershey’s or Kiss. They’re not allowed to unwrap the object; they should simply write based on how it feels.
Keep going! Have the students write a sentence based on their sense of smell. At this point, I remind them that a good sentence should have ten or more words (for 5th graders, but adjust as necessary) and good capitalization and punctuation. They should go back to adjust their other sentences, if necessary. Then, the students should use their sense of hearing to describe the sounds the object makes as they unwrap it. Challenge them to write with vivid, descriptive words, not boring and bland ones.
Finally, you guessed it… the students will place the object in their mouth to describe what the object tastes like (but don’t forget to check for any food allergies before this step!). They can opt to chew the object or let it melt, but they should descriptively portray the object using his/her sense of taste.
It’s at this point that I tell the students that they’ve just written a descriptive paragraph based on all five senses, and that when they ever feel a need to pump up a paragraph, they can rely on their senses to add to the description. I encourage them to go back and make this paragraph ‘flow’ by adding an introduction, transitions, and/or a summary statement, as well.
For older students, you could easily adapt this activity to write one paragraph per sense (instead of one sentence). Also, you could have the students name this object or describe its ingredients. Either way, this method definitely challenges the students to “sweeten” their writing abilities!
Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.